By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) - South Korea called on Monday for major powers to criminally pursue North Korea's leadership before its "ever-worsening" human rights record including mass executions and forced labor threatened world peace.
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, in a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council, condemned the "assassination" of Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of North Korean's leader, two weeks ago in Malaysia by agents using VX nerve agent.
Malaysian authorities have identified eight North Korean nationals, including one diplomat, as suspects or as wanted for questioning, he said.
North Korea has not acknowledged the victim was Kim Jong Nam, but last week blamed Malaysia for the death of one of its citizens there, accusing it of an "unfriendly attitude" in a scenario drawn up by South Korea.
Yun told the 47-member forum in Geneva that several hundred high-level officials had been "openly or extrajudicially executed in North Korea not to mention the countless ordinary people."
It was no wonder increasing numbers of North Koreans had defected. "We all know who is ultimately responsible for the abuses and crimes," he added without elaborating.
Quoting U.N. reports, Yun said that up to 120,000 people were imprisoned in North Korean prison camps. "Indeed, the whole country has turned into a massive gulag with unrelenting surveillance," he said.
An aggravation of the human rights situation would threaten the peace and security of the international community. "We should act individually and collectively before the violation of human rights leads to a much bigger calamity," Yun said.
"... It is high time to end impunity for human rights violators including (North Korea's) ...leadership" and hold them accountable at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
There was no immediate reaction to Yun's comments from the delegation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) or its main ally China.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by John Stonestreet)